Ever notice how when people talk about the next “It” boy or girl, the next wunderkind who’s going to turn literature on its head, the next author to stand with the greats–it’s never a crime author?
Over the last few years we’ve had It boys and girls come and go. Precocious talents who were given fat advances and lovingly profiled in magazines like they’d just opened their own hair salon. We’ve had It boys and girls in every genre–except genre.
So why is that? Part of it, I’m sure, is that “genre” still isn’t taken as seriously as “respected” literature. We write about murder and death and crime and P.I.s and FBI agents and heists. Oh, and sometimes in those stories there are pretty great characters. Oh, and sometimes those stories tell an awful lot about our society. Considering how much of America’s reading preference leans towards “genre” literature, you would think it barely existed if you considered most book review sections.
Everyone trips over themselves to anoint the next Tom Wolfe. The next Joyce Carol Oates. The next Hemingway, Fitzgerlad, blah blah blah. The previous anointed have filled those shoes just about as well as Harold Miner filled Michael Jordan’s. Remember Baby Jordan? Neither does anyone else. Nobody remembers the “Next” anyone. They remember the ones who claim their own throne. Remarkably, though, the “genre” throne seems to be better hidden than Jimmy Hoffa.
Strange. When “Spider-Man 3” comes out, newspapers are clamoring over themselves to review it. Same with “Next.” Or “Hot Fuzz.” Or even “Are We Done Yet?”. Doesn’t matter that two are comedies, the other two are sci-fi/fantasy. One is even based on a–shudder–comic book. Genre doesn’t seem to matter as much in other mediums. Yet when it comes to books, noses are turned up. Wouldn’t you lose a little respect for a movie review section that didn’t review that week’s big release? And sometimes, because you read that big review, you might also read a review of another, smaller flick you might not otherwise have heard of? Considering “Genre” fiction rules most bestseller list, you’d be hard pressed to find mainstream reviews for the majority of those titles.
It boys and girls come and go. Some make it, some don’t. With rare exceptions, people don’t read first novels because of who the author is, whether or not they wear a pocket square, or whether or not they were an assistant to some celebrity. People want good books, they want to be entertained, they want to be moved. Genre authors often do that as well as anyone. But you’ll never see them photographed at Balthazar or whatever (I don’t really know the trendy places). Or standing arm and arm at a launch party with some botoxed dude from “Desperate Housewives.” Nope, you’ll find them at home, pounding away, hoping when their careers are over they might be mentioned in the same phrases as Chandler. Hammett. Highsmith. Connelly. Grafton. And that some day others might try to fill their shoes.
We might wear a pocket square, but damned if that thing doesn’t get a few bloodstains on it.
Meanwhile, I nominate DAVE as the very first Grit Boy.
author of THE MARK
coming June 26, 2007
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